Sign up to be notified of new blog post.

If you are not getting notifications of the blog posts by e-mail and would like to, click here. Make sure that you give us at least your first name.


I promise we will never give or sell your info to others.


You might also want to visit Entrusting Truth to find out more about what we do. My book and workbook Your Walk, their walk are available there as well as at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Translate

Sunday, March 31, 2013

ἠγέρθη

That is all that the angel said, "ἠγέρθη," egerthe.  We translate it, "He is risen."
The angel said egerthe - He is risen.
It is a big deal.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Forcing

Have you ever wanted the Bible to say something that you were not sure that it did?  It may have been close – but it just was not crystal clear.  I found myself in that situation this morning.  Psalm 27:4 and John 15:5 are passages in which I spend a lot of time both personally and in working with men.  This morning I really wanted the word that the NASB translates “dwell” in Psalm 27:4 to be equivalent to the word translated “abide” in John 15:5.  The question is answered by looking at which Greek words are used to translate Hebrew words, most often in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament.
What do we do when the Bible does not say what we want it to say?
While there may be a conceptual connection between Psalm 27:4 and John 15:5, I was not able to find a strong link between the Hebrew “dwell” and the Greek “abide.”  I sure wanted to.

I have read some articles and heard some messages where connections like that are forced.  Speakers and writers have redefined words in order to force the connection.  In doing that they are forcing the Bible to say what they want it to say.  It is a much better course of action to allow the Bible to say what it says and let it change you.

There was a example of a good approach when you want to make a connection in a – not sure what to call Google+ or Twitter “friends” so I will go with – acquaintance, +Ron Edmondson's blog yesterday.  As you read that post you will see that he offered his thoughts tentatively, with questions rather than declarations.  That is a great example of how to approach issues about which you are not sure.

Not to follow +Ron's  example is to force the Scripture to say what one wants it to say.  Unfortunately that has been done quite a bit in the Church.  If you are reading or listening to what is being said about the Bible’s position on homosexuals, you will see many examples of people attempting to force the Scripture to validate their position.  That practice leads to the perversion of the text which culminates at best in heresy and at worst blasphemy.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Purpose of God

Spend some time reading through Ephesians 1:3 – 14.  Look at the words in that passage that indicate choice or intent.  Look for words that indicate purpose of those choices or intent.
How involved with you has God been all of your life?
If you do that, you will probably need to spend some extended time in thanksgiving.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prosper

If you are like many of your brothers and sisters in Christ you read Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 today.  You should.  If you haven’t there’s still time.
Is your definition of prosper the same as God's?  I find mine is a little bit different.
The first phrase is, “Behold, my servant will prosper…”  The phrase starts with an emphatic word, “Behold.”  So the Holy Spirit is drawing attention to “prosper” emphatically.  Then he details what He means by prosper:

  • Appearance marred by more than any man
  • No stately for or majesty
  • Not attractive
  • Sorrowful
  • Grieving 
  • Stricken of God
  • Afflicted
  • Pierced
  • Crushed
  • Chastened
  • Scourged
  • Bearing all of our iniquity
  • Oppressed
  • Taken away
  • Cut off from the living
  • His soul in anguish

Not sure how you define, “prosper,” Those elements are not even in the ballpark of my definition of “prosper.”  It seems my definition may be deficient.

The measure of prosper for God is in Isaiah 53:11, “My Servant, will justify the many…”  Apparently prosperity in this context is not about what the Servant gains, but that He is an effective instrument of God’s overwhelming, lavish, overflowing grace.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lost in the Word

You ever lose track of time because you are so engaged with the Word of God?  A lady in our workshop reported this evening that last Thursday she was working on the assignment for tonight.  She started at 9 AM and after awhile realized she had been working for a couple of hours and it was 11 – only it was 12.  She was so focused on what she was seeing in the Word that the time flew by.
You ever get so absorbed in what you are seeing in the Word that you lose track of time?
That has happened to me on more occasions than I can count.  Just did.  I am working through Ephesians again and realized a few minutes ago that I had not written yet today.  To tell you the truth I wanted to keep working through Ephesians 3.

When you get lost in the Word – that is good study. Well, back to Ephesians...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Overwhelming Grace

A group of guys is starting a study of Ephesians this week.  We are doing the overview this week.  In preparation for the study I have been reading through Ephesians multiple times, twice this afternoon.  I use the book quite a bit.  Especially 6:10 – 20, I speak on that section during the Father and Son retreats.  Based on my records the last time I studied the book as a whole was 2007.
The Grace of God toward us is overwhelmingly overwhelming - He came after us when we were helpless, drowning in sin, and unable to respond.  He saved us in spite of ourselves.
This time through I have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of God’s grace toward us.  Ephesians was written after Romans and before Colossians.  Ephesians 1 and 2 seem to be and expansion of the thought Paul shared in Romans 5:6 – 11.  Summarizing the points:
  • We were dead, helpless in our sins
  • God chose to call us out of that sin
  • He gave us the faith to respond to Him
  • He raised us in Christ
  • He seated us in Christ in the heavenly places
Those are just a few of the statements made in Romans 5:6 – 11 and Ephesians 1 and 2.  Spend some time looking at what God has done on His initiative for you.  Look for the theme of His plan and purpose.  You too will be overwhelmed.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Unloading


Do you have a friend with which you pray regularly?  Someone who will listen, ask clarifying questions and then pray with you over your joys and struggles.  You need them.
Do you have someone with whom you can pray?
It helps if they have similar goals and are engaged in similar pursuits as you.  That is not necessary.  What is necessary is that they do not always offer solutions.  They listen and they pray.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Putting on the Breastplate

You are probably familiar with Ephesians 6:10 – 20; it is the passage on the armor of God.  If you are like me you have used that imagery in prayer.  I have spoken on that passage – five messages on the armor of God.  This morning I was in Isaiah 59 and read again verse 17.  It is the passage to which Paul is referring in Ephesians 6:14, when he refers to the “breastplate of righteousness.”  Paul also refers to a “breastplate of faith,” in 1 Thessalonians 5:8.
Our understanding of Scripture will continue to develop and improve as we continually engage in time in the Word.
As I was thinking through this imagery this afternoon, it dawned on me that I have been reading and understanding this incorrectly.  When I think of putting on that armor, I have thought of putting on that breastplate of righteousness as living a righteous life in Christ.  That is, it is incumbent on me to live righteously in order to stand firm against the schemes of the evil one.  Yes, I can only do that through Christ, but it is my obedience in and through Him that is that righteousness.  I believe that is wrong.

The righteousness is not mine, it is Christ’s.  I have no righteousness apart from Him.  I am to put on His righteousness.  It is not just that I can finally behave righteously in Christ.  It is that He is my righteousness.  There is not much – strike that – anything that I can do to approximate His righteousness, I can’t do better – I am a fool to try.  It is only as I clothe myself with Him that I can stand.  [Do a quick search on “put on” in Paul’s letters as back up to this…]

One point of this is that our understanding of Scripture continually improves.  Not just mine, all of us.  That includes all of our favorite pastors, authors, speakers, etc.  All of us are at some level getting it wrong and learning more each day.  Why is that?  We are studying the infinite, with finite understanding.  Therefore we are – or should – be continually learning, revising, and sharpening our understanding of Him.  That process only ends when we see Him face to face.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Foundation of Effectiveness

Psalm 145 is one of my favorites.  I know this because just about every verse of Psalm 145 is underlined in my Bible.  Today I was drawn to verses 3 – 5.  As you are probably aware a primary focus for me is getting  men engaged in teaching the Bible to their children.  So it makes sense that this passage flies off the page at me.  The thing I noticed today is a strong support for my other main focus.
Meditation on the wonders of God's work is the foundation for effective communication of truth to our kids - and others.
In the last part of verse 5 David says that he will meditate on God’s wonderful works.  Strong word that – meditate.  It is variously translated consider and muse (there are others but they do not apply here).  Consider that for a moment.  David says that he will be quiet, think through what God has done, look at it from every angle, run it over in his thoughts over and over again, until it becomes engrained in his thinking and experience.  That takes time, quiet, concentration, focus, perhaps solitude, and probably a journal.  Most of those things are in short supply these days.

Note though that this is the third mention of God’s works in these three verses.  I would submit for your consideration that it is the meditation on God’s works that enables effective communication of those works to the next generation.  It takes more than a cursory glance at what God has done for us to be able to communicate His greatness to our kids – or anyone else for that matter.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Work

I have been reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success .  One of the purposes of the book is to debunk the myth that successful people get there only on talent.  Gladwell shows through the research he quotes that in reality those who have reached the pinnacle of success, being the best at something, have worked harder than everyone else.  True there are other factors that lead to that work.  But bottom line, work it is.
What does it take for our kids to master something?  What should we encourage them to master?
Gladwll, in chapter 2, reminds us of the 10,000 hour rule.  In order to master a skill to become professional in something, it takes 10,000 hours of practice.  The question becomes in what are you going to invest 10,000 hours?  In what are you going to encourage your children to invest 10,000 hours?

May I suggest that 2 Timothy 2:15 might be something to consider.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shooting the Wounded

It is my understanding that the Marines and SEALS do not leave their wounded or killed behind.  In that they are godlier than many of the Christian organizations with which I am familiar.  Why?  Because a lot of Christian organizations have had Galatians 6:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:14 have leak out of their Bibles.
We need to do a better job as communities of faith of helping those of us who are struggling...
When a person struggles with the direction of the ministry, has a new thought, questions a leadership decision, or struggles with a particular issue, rather than listen, admonish, or strengthen I have seen time and time again exclusion or ostracism.

It is a strong rebuke to the Church when those who do not believe do what those who do believe are supposed to do yet refuse.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More on the Turns

Yesterday, I wrote about the tendency for us to drift off the road on our Christian Journey.  I have a couple of more thoughts about that.
In order to stay between the lines in our Christian journey we need to stay between the index and maps.
This morning I was reading through Jeremiah 23 - if you have not read Jeremiah lately, you might want to; I am finding it eerily relevant to this current age.  I was drawn to Jeremiah 23:36.  One of the things that will cause us to spin out on this journey is beginning to rely more on our thoughts or the thoughts of others whom we respect more than we do God's Word.  Or we get to the point that we feel like we understand all we need to know about the Bible.  Thinking, "I read or studied that passage before, I do not need to do that again."

If we are not continually returning to to the Word for ourselves, and pushing ourselves to go deeper than we have, it is not a matter of if but when we drift off course.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Caution Sharp Turn Ahead

When we see that sign on a road, if we are paying attention, we will adjust our speed so we do not lose control of our car.  It is prudent to pay attention to the signs.  If we do not we will veer off of the road.
If we do not pay attention to the signs we can drift off track in the Christian life...
It is the same in navigating our way through life as a follower of Christ.  The difference is that the signs are not as clear.  Further a lot of our journey is through a fog of combating world views and assaults on the core of what is Christianity.  One element of that fog is to class and compare Christianity as one of several religions.  I have written about that earlier so I will not rehearse that here.

We tend to deal with the fog by incrementally drifting off course, pushed by the pressures of that which is creating the fog.  The drift is subtle.  It begins by making small concessions to the world.  We tire of continually battling so we look for areas we can agree, where the Bible is “grey.”  Or perhaps we have not taken the time to check what the Bible is saying for ourselves and we just accept what Christian leaders say, or what some prominent Christian author says uncritically.  Soon the authority becomes the leader or the organization and we are committed to follow what they say rather than what the Bible says.

I have said this many times before, but like Peter says several times in 2 Peter, it is OK to repeat myself…  We are not to follow leadership blindly.  Not even ordained Christian leaders.  We are commanded to study ourselves.  We are to be like those in Berea, Acts 17:11.  When we see leaders not paying attention to the signs, read Bible, we are to challenge them.

There is no authority for a Christian leader to direct anyone to do something that is contrary to what the Bible says.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Battlefield

So I am sitting in the Huntsville Cancer Center with my dad.  He is getting his first chemotherapy treatment.  The room is full of people getting their treatments.  It is an interesting sub-culture.  There is an instant community because of the shared disease.  The personalities are varied.  Some are quiet, some interject a comment now and again, and others dominate the conversation.
We are compelled to share what we know but we are in a battle where people do not want to hear what we want to share...
One of the men who, I think, like dad, was getting his first treatment, started to make a comment about the miniseries on the Bible that is currently playing on the History Channel.  Before he finished with his point the dominator personality loudly proclaimed that the Bible had been replaced by evolution and those that believed the Bible - well everyone has to believe something.  Both the tone, demeanor, and context of his remarks did not invite dialog.  Later in the conversation he revealed he was a retired Sargent Major.  My experience with those folks is consistent with him, they do not invite conversation, especially if you are of a different point of view.

While this scene was playing out - it still is by the way - I was reading Jeremiah 20:9.  It occurred to me that this is the dilemma we, as believers daily face.  If we are walking The Lord we have been exposed through the Bible to the unimaginable riches we have in Christ.  We want to share them, we are commanded to, but we want to...  We are surrounded  by a culture united in their disease of sin.  While they may not be getting treatment their leaders are committed to their positions and their explanations of how life works, and they are engaged in making those strategies work, and like the retired Sgt. Major, they are not inviting contrary conversation.  What we would share with them fits into that category.  It is offensive, challenges their world view, and requires a response of humility.

It is no wonder that we are hesitant to share.  It is no wonder that unless God penetrates those defenses there will be no response.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cycles

Reading this morning in Psalm 40 it seemed to me that the Psalm does a good job of describing three cycles through which my relationship with God drifts.
  • Intimacy
  • Distance
  • Disillusion
There are times which time with The Lord in both study and devotion is rich with insight and connection. Observations flow freely. New aspects of His nature and character are revealed in nearly every word. I can't get enough.
Do you experience cycles in your relationship with God?  I do...
Then there are times when time with Him is a real struggle. Study and devotion is a chore. It seems as if He is busy with other things without time for me. There is still good stuff to be had , but it takes more work, more effort.

Then there are times when it feels like nothing is happening. Prayers are continually answered with apparent "No." The Word is dry, in both study and devotion. Prayer feels like it is not just not making through the ceiling, it feels like it is not reaching the ceiling. Life is not working out at all. I begin to wonder if this is all real...

God, Jesus never changes. He is always there. Hebrews 13:8 reminds us of that truth. In each of these cycles which I experience He is the same. I am the one that is changing. He is still engaged, even with the mechanics of the change.

The key to navigating these cycles, is the attitude in verse 1.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Time

We are all gifted differently.  We all have different personalities.  We all have different skills.  We are all the same in one area.  Time.  Every one of us, regardless of gifting, IQ, income, parents, country of origin – all of us have 168 hours each week.
What do you say to someone who says they do not have time to study the Bible?
In large part what defines us is how we choose to utilize those 168 hours.  Do we spend them or invest them?

More times than I can count people have told me that they do not have the time to engage in deep Bible study.  I do not believe that.  I do believe that they have chosen to engage in something else.  That they have placed other things at a higher priority than deeply engaging in the Word of God.

“The average American over the age of 2 spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, says a new Nielsen report — plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.”  Most experts agree that if someone spends an hour a day reading or studying in a field they will soon become an expert.  That would still leave the average person 27 hours of TV.

Matthew 25:14 – 30 suggests that we will be held accountable by God for how we invest the 168 hours he has given us.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Private

Do you ever have time with the Lord that you do not want to share with anyone else?  I read a really thin book on worship several years ago – 26 years ago I think.  In it the author was talking about his personal worship of Christ.  He stated in there something that I am just now beginning to understand.  He said some of his times with the Lord were so intensely personal that he would not share what he experienced with anyone.  At the time I thought that was weird – it seems I am getting weird.
Do you ever have time with God so rich that you do not want to share it with others?

To get here in my journey, it has taken me slowing down.  Those of you who know me, know that I am a driver, type A, high hostile, choleric, or however whatever personality instrument with which you are familiar describes hard chargers.  So it takes a lot to get my attention.  For the past nine years I have been journaling consistently.  What I have been learning is that one of the advantages to that discipline is that it slows me way down.  It forces me to consider more closely what God is saying in our time together in the Word.  I am speaking here of devotional time not study.

The point is that it is in that slow, abiding, is where God has been consistently showing up to encourage, correct, and lead.  Today was no exception.  But it was intensely personal.  I wish that type of worship for you...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Disappointment

In 1997 Phillip Yancy wrote Disappointment with God.  I have not read the book, but I get it.  Most of us are not really sure it is OK to acknowledge that, in fact, we may be just be a tad disappointed with Him.  I was, last night.  So much so that I could not sleep.  The details are not relevant but in general I was not happy with the way He was using me, He is in the process of answering a long standing prayer request in a manner of which I do not approve, and there were issues with some of my kids in which I did not think He was engaging properly.  Yeah, I suppose I am supposed to be better than that, but I am who I am…
Why do I get disappointed with God?
The interesting thing about Him is that when I am struggling with Him over issues like this, He guides me through directing me through some means or another to a passage of Scripture that begins to reorient me.  True to form…  I have read, memorized, sung, and otherwise interacted with Psalm 100 for just about 40 years.  But today He used it to bear down on my disappointment with Him.

Verse 3, “…it is He who has made us…”  We, I did not make Him.  He is not a creation of mine to do my will or to meet my needs or to carry out what I think is best.  He made me.  He formed me in mom’s womb starting in November of 1949 intentionally, for a reason, His reason (Psalm 139, Ephesians 2:10).  Still in 3, “…We are HIS people and the sheep of HIS pasture…” (Emphasis added).  This is His creation, His plan, His ministry, His kingdom, not mine.  As Rick Warren so succinctly put it in the first sentence of The Purpose Driven Life, it’s not about me.

My disappointment with Him rises out of the sewer of my self-absorbed demands.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Listen

On Wednesdays we have a Bible study with some men, most of whom attend the church my wife and I attend.  This year we have been studying 2 Corinthians.  This morning we were in chapter 10 for the second week.

Part of the discussion this week centered on 10:12.  That verse is one that I memorized decades ago.  I have always understood it in a certain way.  The men this morning did not understand the verse – or at least articulate their understanding of the verse in the same way I have.  In years past leading a study like this I would have pushed really hard on them to understand the passage the way I did.  This morning I did not.
When we are leading a study and someone has a different take on a passage than ours, we need to listen to understand rather than force our understanding on the group...
It may be because I am older, it may be that I have been scarred by many other inconsequential battles, it may be I have finally learned something, whatever the reason this morning I listened and asked questions to try to understand their point of view.  I discovered we were not that far apart they were just looking at it from a slightly different angle.

As leaders we are supposed to be better prepared.  We should have put more time into the assignment than those we are leading – significantly more time.  Since that is the case we come to the meeting with some pretty strong views, as I did this morning.  In order to lead well, in order to engage the gifts of the people with whom we are working through a text, we have to be willing to suspend what we “know” to leave room both for those with us to see things differently.  We have to listen objectively and evaluate what they say with the same degree of passion that we hold our own understanding.  Not easy.  Something I have not done well always.  But not to engage with people in this way does not invite them to utilize their gifts and robs us of the privilege of learning from their interaction with the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Approach

Last week I was in a meeting with a small group of men.  We were to discuss a book we were reading together.  I got there early because I was not finished reading the section of the book we were going to discuss.  I had already scanned the book and knew the overall direction of the author but I had not read completely through the section.  One of the other men came is as I was attempting to finish, he has a PhD and a terrific sense of humor, wears a t-shirt that says “I’m a doctor you can trust me.”
In Bible study - well frankly in any study - it is best to approach a book from its whole, to its parts, and then back to its whole.

He began quizzing me on how I read.  He questioned why I scanned the book before I read it and said that it would be like reading the end of a book or watching the end of a movie for him it would spoil the book.  I countered with having a feel for the overall purpose of the author, especially in a non-fiction work; allow us to better understand the parts of his argument as we work through the details.  We talked more about other aspects of reading but I want to apply that last sentence to how we approach the Scripture.

Like studying or reading a non-fiction book, it is best to approach a book of the Bible by first looking at the book as a whole, then working through the details of each section of the book, and then finally putting what you have learned back together in a summary.  So from the whole, to the parts, and then back to the whole.  Approaching a book in that manner does at least a couple of things for you.  First it reduces the probability that you will jerk some portion of the book out of context and use it in a manner the author did not intend.  Second, rather than trying to figure out what the book is about as you analyze the parts, you already have some idea of the direction of the book and your analysis is now how do the parts support the direction of the book.  The questions you ask of the text are much more effective.

Try it; you will like it.  If you need some help on how to do an overview or analysis of a portion of scripture, let me know and I will send you some ideas.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Striving

In the movie “The Point,” the main character Oblio is banished to the pointless forest because he was not born with a pointed head – it was the 70’s, what can I say.  When he and his dog Arrow enter the forest they meet the pointed man…

What has this to do with us teaching the Bible to our kids, you ask – and well you should?  We are pulled in many directions.  We have books written by good authors, messages on MP3, blogs, magazines, websites devoted to minute slices of the Christian life.  That does not count the stuff that is going on in our local church.  If we do not focus all of the things we do will have the same effect that the pointed man exposed to Oblio.  Effort (or a point) in every direction is the same as no effort (point) at all.

Psalm 27:4 and John 5:39 – 40 give us a fairly good description of at what we should be focused.  Knowing Christ.  If what we are doing is not moving us closer to Him we should think seriously about stopping it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Labor But Do Not Strive?

Read Matthew 9:38.  Now read Colossians 1:28 – 29.  Now read Psalm 46:10.
We are to cease striving and yet labor in the harvest...  Any ideas on how to pull that one off?
We know that the laborers are few, Christ said so, and commanded us to pray for more laborers in the harvest.  Paul says that he is one of those laborers and that he is striving to present every man mature or complete in Christ.  Psalm 46:10 tells us to cease striving.

Did Paul get it wrong?  How do I labor and not strive?

Thoughts anyone?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stupid, Delusional Human Tricks

If you have read the Bible much, really, any at all, you may have noticed that there is no notion of political correctness in its pages.  That should not be a great shock, since PC is a new invention.  No the Bible tells it like it is.

Jeremiah 10 is no exception.  If you look at verses 1 - 16 you will note that the Holy Spirit calls coming up with gods other than the God of the Bible is, "stupid," verses 8 and 14; and "delusional," verse 8.  There is also in this passage a rich description of the gods we as stupid, delusional people tend to make for ourselves.  I particularly find the description at the end of verse 5 intriguing, "...they can do no harm, nor can they do any good."  Which begs the obvious question why would anyone engage in that futility.  The answer, they are delusional and stupid.
The Bible knows nothing of political correctness, it calls stupid, stupid...
When we come up with means to reach God, or come up with other gods to pursue, we fall into those categories.  Before we go patting ourselves on the back we probably ought to consider 2 Corinthians 10:12.  In evangelical Christianity we tend to compare ourselves or our communities to see how we are stacking up...  Paul's analysis is that endeavor is without understanding - ie. stupid, delusional.

So what should we be about?  Perhaps the answer is what Christ told those who asked Him in John 6:28 - 29, "...believe in Him whom He has sent."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Struggle

Romans 7 is baffling to a lot of people.  It is close to the middle of a book that describes and applies the reality that we are justified by faith and not works.  It lies between the chapter that describes our death in Christ and the result of that union, chapter 6; and the amazing reality and impact of the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit as a result of our union with Christ, chapter 8.  We read in Colossians 2:9-10 that we are completed in Christ – that is a great place to start an extended study on the believer’s position in Christ by the way, if you need some guidance on where else to look, let me know and I will send you some ideas.

Romans 7 is confusing.  On the one hand the discourse about the validity of the Law on dead people seems to follow right along with the notion that we have died with Christ.  But Paul’s “wretched” passage has produced more confusion in those with whom I have studied this book than just about any other passage outside prophetic or apocalyptic passages.
How does Romans 7 help us to understand the continual struggle we have as believers?

I am not sure that it is that difficult to get.  His claim on us, since He redeemed us, is complete.  Our following Him though is a struggle as we fight against the desires of our flesh in the midst of a fallen, broken world whose systems and rulers are at best opposed to His rule and in reality hostile to Him and His people.  Paul seems to describe that struggle well.  In a sense Romans 7 is a description of that struggle to the extent that we are trying to follow Christ on our own, in our own strength, but doing the “right” Christian things.

The bottom line, it does not work.

That is why 7:24 – 25 is such a powerful set up for chapter 8.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Frustration

Last evening my wife and I led the second week of our workshop, Parents Teach the Bible.  For the first two weeks of the workshop we are doing an overview of 2 Peter.  One of the people stopped me toward the end of the time and said that they were not getting it.  They felt like they were really struggling with the process.  They said they could get it in the group because of the input of the rest of the people but they were struggling with doing this on their own.
Learning a new skill in Bible study can be frustrating and hard, but the result, getting to know the Lord better is worth whatever effort...
That is normal.  When ever we start something new.  When we have to learn a new skill, for a significant amount of time we, or at least I am, bad at it.  But we have to be bad before we are good at something.  You are expert at something.  People come to you and ask questions about how to do that thing that you at which you excel.  But you were not always really good at it.  At some point you struggled with the skill.  You worked through it and became good and possibly excellent.

It is the same for each of us as we approach the Bible.  Most of us have not had any instruction on how to study the scripture.  Yet most of us have been in the faith for a long time.  So not only are we not sure how to do what we are being asked to do, we feel like we should be able to do it already.  No.  It is unreasonable to thing you can do something that you have never been shown how to do.

So when you are learning to dive into the Word yourself, like anything else that is new, there will be a time of awkward progress.  The difference is the richness of the reward.  Pushing through the fog results ultimately in gaining greater insight into the nature and character of God.

That is worth pretty much any effort.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spiritual Battle

This morning we started working through 2 Corinthians 10 in our morning study.  The chapter is packed.

Focus for a moment on 3 – 6.  Note the way Paul leverages the criticism that is aimed at him into a strong argument.  He is essentially being accused of ministering out of the flesh.  He acknowledges that he is still walking, read living,, in his fleshly body, but he is not warring in the arena.
There is no way we can be successful in walking with Christ apart from acknowledging and engaging in battle with the enemy...
His battleground is for the hearts and minds of those to whom he was called to serve by Christ.  Note that he does not use fleshly arguments but he sees this as a spiritual battle that requires spiritual or divine weaponry.  He has referred to this battle before in 2 Corinthians 4:3 – 4, those who cannot understand him are blinded by the enemy.

Daily we are to be engaged in this battle.  Not only to fight to walk with our Lord in integrity but also to share that light with those around us.  They are blinded.  They are being deceived by the world which is under the dominion, now, of the enemy of the Lord.  The only way that we can walk with Him and serve them is through daily warring with divine weapons.  Those divine weapons Paul outlines in Ephesians 6:10 – 20.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Last Stuck Thought

I've been stuck on Jeremiah 6:10:21 for the past three days.  This is the last post on this passage, I think.
Regardless of the people group - there are some ancient paths we must take to follow Christ.
We hear a lot about the relevance of the Gospel.  I have been approached by people who wanted to change the way the Bible stated things because different groups of people found the language offensive.  I have read books that claim to be Biblical that suggest things to “more effectively” reach people groups that are anything but Biblical.  Elements of the Church are continually succumbing to pressure from the culture to change its position on one issue or another be it abortion, homosexuality, ordination of women, marriage and divorce, and a myriad of other pressures.  We are told that certain age groups have to be approached in ways that they can hear or we will lose them.  OK.

Look at Jeremiah 6:16.  First of all let me say that I agree that we have to work to communicate the truth in a way that those who are not in the faith can understand it.  That being said when people are in the faith, there are some basics that regardless of their age, cultural background, whatever label one wishes to use to filter them, are essential.  Those are the ancient ways about which Jeremiah is talking.  Obedience to the Word of God is one.  That assumes one knows the Word.  Prayer is another.  Being engaged with a community of believers in another.  Being a verbal and behavioral testimony to those around you who do not believe is another.

Israel refused.  As Paul says in Romans 15:4, that is recorded for our instruction.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stuck Some More...But Looking...

Still working through Jeremiah 6:10 – 21.  Focus today on verse 14.  One of the things we need to avoid in Bible Study is looking at verses in isolation.  We do that a lot.  We will take a favorite passage and quote it endlessly without consciously thinking about where the verse fits into the book in which it is found.  With the exception of perhaps Proverbs, there is a continuity of thought that runs through all of the books.  The chapter and verse divisions were added centuries later so we could find our place quickly.  So each passage connects in thought and structure to those around it and serves to move the argument of the author forward.
What drives superficial ministry?
So verse 14.  With that in mind, what is the connection between verse 13 and verse 14?  From the post “Looking for…3” we see that the first word “and” indicates that the thought from 13 is continued in 14.  What questions can we ask then?  Perhaps:
  • What is the connection between dealing falsely and superficial ministry?
  • What is the connection between leader’s greed and superficial ministry?
  • Why would leaders dealing falsely from greed declare peace?  What purpose does it serve them?
We have said that better Bible students are those who see more and see it more quickly.  A corollary to that is that they will ask better questions.  The answers to these questions may seem obvious.  But I would suggest that the answers are not obvious to everyone.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Still Stuck...

At least a couple of more thoughts on Jeremiah 6:10 – 21 – well one today anyway…  Look at 13; spend some time thinking through the implications of that verse.
Money is required to do ministry, but when money becomes the object - the ministry is false...
The indictment is general; covers the entire nation of Judah.  All the people, the prophets, the priests, all of them became focused on the gain, the riches that flowed from following God.  Note well what follows from that – false teaching.  A good cross reference to what Jeremiah is saying here is the book of 2 Peter – it is only 61 verses about the length of a chapter in Luke.  It deals with false teachers and their handling of the Word of God.

This is hard.  I have personally seen many in Christian work torpedoed by an improper focus on finances.  On the other hand in order to continue to minister, most of them, us, need monies.  The line is crossed when the money becomes the driver.  It apparently is an easy line to cross.

I am going to stick with being stuck here for at least a couple of more days…

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Stuck

Oh – Happy Texas Independence Day!

My time with the Lord went rather long this morning, I got stuck on Jeremiah 6:10 – 21 – that ever happen to you?  You dive into a passage and find yourself unable to shake what it is saying?  Many times I push through that to keep my schedule – which is obviously more important…  Today, I slowed down and paid attention…

To suggest I was challenged by what I was reading this morning would be like saying Everest is a bump.  Take a look.

Focus for a moment on verse 10.  God wants to warn the people.  He cannot.  They cannot hear Him.  Why?  They reject His Word.  They do not delight in it.  Those are the statements of fact.
My ability to hear God is directly proportional to my delight in His Word...
When I read those my response typically is to think through whether I see anything like those attitudes, those realities first in my own life.  Then I expand that to see if those attitudes exist in the communities with which I am engaged.

The term that leaped off of the page this morning was “delight.”  Chase that word through the poetry section of the Old Testament.  The reason that the people could not hear the warning of God is that they did not approach the Scripture, the Word of God with delight.  Not only had it become familiar, normal, but it had become something that they dreaded, a reproach.

That scares me.  It drives me to take close stock of my approach to God’s Word.  Is it a chore to meet with Him each day in His book?  Am I resenting the time?  Filling out my checklist?  Or am I coming to that time with delight as if I am meeting my love, my life?  The reality for me is that “delight” is not the word that would describe my every encounter with Him in His Word.  To whatever extent that delight is diminished to that extent I suffer hearing loss in the presence of God.  Not so good.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Looking for... 5

Going to try something different.  I told you last time that I would show you how to quickly check the Greek in a passage you are studying.  We looked at 2 Peter 1:1 – 10 and I asked you to notice how many times that Peter used the term “knowledge” and to note any other words that he used to describe that knowledge.
You can use the online Interlinear Bible to quickly find out what Greek words are being used in the passage you are studying...
One way to do this is to use the Interlinear Bible.  Rather than write out how to do that I recorded this video to show you how to do this quickly - watch it...

So now we know that Peter used two different words for “knowledge.”  We also observe that the word “true” that is used in some of the translations in verse 2 and 3 to modify “knowledge” is not a separate word in the Greek but is called for by the use of epignosis (ἐπίγνωσις).  That is data we can use to begin to ask some questions about the definitions of these words and what, if anything, the use of the two different words adds to what Peter is telling us.

Other posts in this series:
  1. Looking for…What?
  2. Looking for… 2
  3. Looking for... 3
  4. Looking for... 4